Advocates of cityhood for Calabasas will get one last chance to qualify their 3-year-old incorporation campaign for a June election, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge decided Tuesday.
Judge Miriam A. Vogel refused to rescind a restraining order issued five days ago that has blocked a key Los Angeles County ruling today on the cityhood issue.
However, she promised incorporation backers that she will move quickly to determine the constitutionality of a fire-protection law for wild lands that Calabasas needs to help make incorporation financially feasible.
Vogel rescheduled her own hearing on the fire law for Feb. 22, which would give Calabasas residents time to seek a final go-ahead for incorporation from the county's Local Agency Formation Commission.
If LAFCO members decide then that incorporation is economically sound, there would still be time for the cityhood measure to qualify for a June election, Vogel indicated. The incorporation election must be approved by county supervisors by March 11. The last scheduled LAFCO meeting before March 11 is Feb. 24.
The surprise restraining order was issued Friday when a Whittier woman sued the county to protest the fire-protection law's cost to county taxpayers.
The county stands to lose $675,800 under the law's provisions if Calabasas becomes a city. County leaders have charged that it would be an illegal "gift of public funds" to Calabasas residents.
But without the law, the proposed city of Calabasas would end up $1.3 million in the red after its first year of operation, according to county analysts.
The law limits the amount of money the county can collect from newly formed cities that contract for brush-fire protection from the county Fire Department.
Vogel's temporary restraining order was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by Rita N. Humphry, a friend of a Calabasas land developer. The developer, Jim Baldwin, has unsuccessfully sought to have 1,300 acres he hopes to build on excluded from the proposed city's boundaries.
"The last thing I want to do is tread into a political thicket," Vogel told cityhood campaign chief Robert Hill and Edward Dilkes, a lawyer for the incorporation group.
Dilkes said Calabasas leaders will use a ruling issued Tuesday by the state's legislative counsel to help prove Feb. 22 that the law is valid and help prove Feb. 24 that incorporation is viable.